A/N: This scene has been nagging at me to write.
I just felt like Bolin really needed a hug that night
after the Makorra shenanigans. I used to write
OC's all the time, but I told myself never again
but then oops, here's one. Enjoy!
Noodles and New Friends
It was getting late. The outside lights had long ago lit up the Republic City skyline. The shops were closed and most restaurants were shutting down for the night, but along one of the main streets downtown, one restaurant's doors were still open and lights still on.
A young, well-built boy sat alone at a table. His elbows propped his sagging body up against the wood and before him sat four bowls. Three were empty and sat cold in a dirty, leaning stack. The bowl in front of him consisted of green noodles, the same for which the restaurant was named for. Narook's Seaweed Noodlery.
And this would be Bolin, pro-Earthbender, member of the Future Industries Fire Ferrets who had a strong chance of winning the championships this year, but right now he didn't look much like celebrating.
Bolin glanced up and sideways as the last patrons besides himself got up and left the bar, leaving their money on the counter and headed outside. The flaps hanging over the doorway swung back and forth as they disappeared into the night. Bolin lowered his head again, going back to his big bowl of seaweed noodles when footsteps sounded at the entrance and a new figure came in. Looking up, Bolin froze.
It was her. His heart skipped a beat. The noodles in his mouth suddenly went lodged in his throat. He coughed and choked and sniffled and wiped his face off with the side of his wrist.
The girl sent him a very cautious look then continued on over to the bar. It wasn't her.
Wasn't it closing time? Bolin thought to himself. He'd spent many late nights at Narook's before and Narook was usually pretty good-natured about it since Bolin was a good customer. He always ordered a lot of food and tonight was no exception. If he'd been in a more jovial mood he would have called over to the girl and told her it was past closing, at least for normal people but if she'd like to join him she was welcome to come enjoy a meal with the one and only, soon-to-be pro-bending champion Bolin of the Fire Ferrets.
But Bolin wasn't in the mood for it. He slurped noodles from his bowl with his chin occasionally touching the light green soup that swirled in the bottom. The noodles were almost gone. Soon he'd need another!
Bolin remembered a time when he and Korra were slurping noodles, laughing at silly jokes. He remembered a time when his heart didn't feel like Naga stepped on it. But that was all past now, wasn't it?
Fresh tears made their way down Bolin's cheek and into his noodles. He shovelled in another mouthful and chewed while sobbing. Chewing and sobbing. Just then, he felt a tap on his shoulder.
His face when he turned around wasn't pretty. Blotchy, tear-streaked, snot running from his nose to his upper lip, mouth full of noodles hanging down past his chin. Bolin was gorgeous, but his crying was ugly. Really ugly.
The Earthbender's green eyes widened at the sight of the girl from before. For a few seconds he had thought she was Korra, but there were differences. Although this girl shared the same skin tone and general height as Korra, her frame was less athletic, her hair was lighter and braided back into a single braid and her eyes were a dark brown.
"You must be, Bolin," said the girl. Although her look towards him had been pretty skeptical before, her brown eyes now took in the boy's pathetic nature with pity.
"Yes." Bolin coughed. He did enough to cover his mouth this time. After clearing his throat he replied. "That's me."
"May I join you?" asked the girl.
Bolin shrugged. "Sure."
The girl nodded approvingly and moved around to sit in the seat opposite of Bolin, but as she was sitting down, suddenly she jumped back up again. There was a squeak and Pabu's furry little body jumped up and across the table top, till he was snuggled in Bolin's lap.
"Was that a...?"
"My ferret. His name is Pabu, very talented you know." Bolin tried to smile, but it didn't look so hot with pieces of seaweed in his teeth.
"I'm sorry I sat on your friend," said the girl. She sat down again and placed her hands on the table top. Her brown eyes did a survey of the table and then she asked. "Are you alone? Mako's not here is he?"
Bolin frowned. It was always Mako. Mako, Mako, Mako. What was so good about Mako anyway. "No, he's not here. Sorry to disappoint you."
"What?" the girl looked confused. "That's not why I asked, it's just that… you're eating a lot of noodles."
"Yeah and I'm only getting started," said the Earthbender. His bowl was now empty. He set it on top of the slowly growing tower of bowls and then fixed the girl with a blurry, red-rimmed stare. "Who are you? You never introduced yourself."
"Oh, how foolish of me." The girl hit her palm against the side of her head. "My name is Imani. I am a niece to Narook! It is a pleasure to meet you Bolin. My uncle talks of you very fondly."
"So that's how you know my name?" Bolin chuckled.
"Yes." Imani grinned.
For a few seconds, neither said anything. Imani sat keenly watching Bolin and Bolin stared at the table in front of him. Apparently he was a messy eater too. A stray noodle lay on the table in the middle of a few drops of seaweed sauce.
"I'm going to go get another bowl," he said, but Imani beat him to her feet.
"No, allow me. You must need to rest."
Without explanation, she dashed off to the kitchen and in no time at all returned with a tray, balancing two steaming bowls of noodles. A third dish she had on the tray contained a little treat for Pabu. She set this on the table as well and after sniffing it tentatively, Pabu began to dig in to his little feast.
"Please enjoy," said Imani. She set one bowl in front of Bolin and the second she laid out for herself. "Noodles sound like a good idea right now. It's so chilly outside, you know?" Imani began to eat ferociously, and for a while Bolin just watched.
"What did you mean by get some rest?" he said, finally digging into his food.
"Well." Imani swallowed a mouthful of noodles. "You're a pro-bender. You're in the middle of a tournament."
"You watch pro-bending?" For a moment, Bolin got really excited, but then his expression fell. He was reminded of Korra.
"From time to time," said Imani. I often listen to the matches on the radio. I've never met a bender before in real life, I mean, a pro-bender." Imani fell silent. It looked as though she had more to say, but she left her words as they were and went back to eating.
"Cool! So you're rooting for us, right?"
"Of course," said Imani, a smile graced her face. "I shouldn't tell you this, but uncle has placed bets on you."
Bolin couldn't help but let a smile spread across his face. It felt reassuring that people believed in the team this much. But now he wasn't sure if the team would be a team tomorrow. How could he ever face Korra again? Or that traitorous brother?
"Why were you crying?"
The question came so out of left-field, it caught Bolin off guard. He chewed longer than necessary on his current mouthful of noodles, an once he swallowed he just opened and shut his mouth. "I wasn'—Okay, I might have been crying a little…" He shovelled more noodles into his mouth and tried to quiet his next sniffle.
"You look like you've been crying. Is it about the tournament? You guys had it pretty rough tonight."
"I wish it was about that…" Bolin stopped eating. His green eyes stared down at his fingers and he sighed.
"Do you want to talk about it, maybe?" asked Imani. "You don't have to if you don't want. We can just eat."
Bolin didn't know the girl, but she'd been kind enough to buy him noodles, plus she was a fan, and cute. Normally he talked everything out with Mako, but now that Mako was the problem who did Bolin have? Pabu, yes, but even Bolin realized there was only so much sweet Pabu could give him.
"Okay, there's this girl…" he began.
Imani's eyebrows raised only the slightest. If she was disappointed, she didn't let on.
"I was going to tell her how I feel about her tonight, cause we went on a date and it went well, but then, she…" He paused, the kiss replayed in his head over and over again. Fresh tears threatened to fall but for the moment Bolin fought them back. He didn't want to have a break down in front of this girl. He didn't want to cry in his noodles again.
And then, he thought about just how much he was going to tell Imani. Although he was mad at Mako, he would never want to hurt him by spreading slander. Bolin struggled to swallow, then went on. "She chose another guy. I saw them and..." Suddenly, it became too much to bare. Bolin dropped his chopsticks and covered his face with his hands. His shoulders began to shake.
He stayed like this for a while, till he felt the warm touch of Imani's hands on his own. She was holding a handkerchief, offering it to him. "Here, it's to clean your face up with. You'll feel better."
Sniffling, Bolin took the handkerchief. "You mean I'll look better."
There was an awkward pause where Imani thought he was being serious, then he just laughed at her and wiped his face with the cloth given to him. It smelled faintly sweet, like a familiar flower he just couldn't remember the name of.
"You can keep it," she said. "And about this girl… one day she will regret what she has done. You shouldn't feel too bad about yourself. That's what life is you know, getting hurt, learning lessons, moving on."
"Eating noodles…" added Bolin.
Imani laughed. "Yes, and noodles. Eating noodles with new friends?" she added in a hopeful tone.
Bolin gave her a warm smile. "Yes. Friends."
They spent the rest of the night eating bowls of noodles, and talking about things that sucked, and other things that made life awesome. Occasionally, Bolin would sniffle a little and then Imani would rub his shoulder and change the topic.
It wasn't until the sun began to rise that Imani said she needed to go to the kitchen and do her work. The restaurant needed to be tidied and prepped for the next day of business, and she'd spent all night talking to Bolin.
"Let me help you," he offered. "It's the least I can do."
His heart still hurt and he knew that sooner or later he'd have to face Korra and Mako, but for now Bolin was happy enjoying his new friend in his place of sanctuary. Narook's Seaweed Noodlery.